It appears, in a triumph of pure country’s unique brand of political leadership and courage, yet again, no one seems willing to accept responsibility for deciding on an operation in North Waziristan. The formation commanders of the Pakistan Army were supposed to have taken this decision, but instead decided that this would be done by the political leadership, and then approval would be obtained from the corps commanders’ conference. Theese commanders, who met in Rawalpindi on Thursday, discussed the operation, and are said to be satisfied with the military preparations, which appear to have been discussed in greater detail than ever before. This was confirmed with a press report of the circulation of a draft military doctrine, which would govern the armed forces in carrying out internal security duties as well as in time of war. The doctrine has not been promulgated, but has been circulated among the Defence Committee of the Cabinet. It accounts the Waziristan situation as subconventional warfare, and mentions the need for all stakeholders to be involved in backing the decision, not just the armed forces.

With this strong support for the ‘nation in arms’ concept, the question naturally arises whether its requirements are met in the case of Waziristan. One of the implications of this doctrine is that any Waziristan operation should have as its touchstone this draft doctrine, particularly its requirement that the Defence Ministry examine the economy, and the social and cultural situation, as well as the general circumstances and the role of the government and society. Why a doctrine is needed to make these obvious recommendations, is a mystery, but as an exercise to buy time until public opinion adjusts to the idea, it is a useful ploy.

The fact remains that North Waziristan is unsafe. Any operation in North Waziristan would have to take lessons from the operation in Swat. Where the Swat operation was considered to have achieved its goals, no follow up by the political leadership has meant that the space created by the operation has been left vacant to be occupied by undemocratic, anti-state forces. The Swat operation has also left many resentments behind in the area, which are predestined to be repeated in any area where the lives of citizens are disrupted by an operation, conducted even as a last resort. The prospect of an operation in North Waziristan is by no means an appetising one, but we must ask ourselves, is it necessary? The political leadership must look to its conscience and answer this question with all honesty. The temptation of pandering to public sentiment to the detriment of Pakistan’s future and present interest, with the narrow minded goal of appearing to be opposed to a difficult decision that everyone secretly agrees is necessary, is cowardice and unbecoming of those who would be leaders.